Real Honeymoon: New Zealand

My good friends Becky and Niall had a legendary wedding in Ireland in 2013, and they went on an equally amazing honeymoon in New Zealand the following year. It was well worth the wait! Read all about their incredible trip below, and remember that it’s never too late to honeymoon.

When and where did you honeymoon?

New Zealand, Oct-Nov 2014.

  • 1 night in Auckland. Visited the SkyTower, took ferry to Devonport (Lorde’s hometown), and watched the Giants in the World Series!
  • Flight from Auckland to Wellington, then Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton.
  • 2 nights in Blenheim (Marlborough Wine Country). Stayed at the Marlborough Vintners Hotel (highly recommended). Did bike tour to visit three wineries: Hans Herzog, Cloudy Bay, and Wairau River Wines.
  • 2 nights in Abel Tasman area at an amazing Airbnb (cottages on an organic farm). Highly recommend the guided day kayak + hike trip in Abel Tasman National Park with Marahau Sea Kayaks.
  • 2 nights in Hokitika. Visited the Hokitika Gorge and the Glow Worm Dell.
  • 1 night at Frank Josef Glacier. Did the Glacier Valley trail walk and visited the hot pools. Stayed at the Rainforest Retreat.
  • 1 night in Wanaka. Hiked Mount Iron and visited lots of local watering holes.
  • 1 night in Te Anau. Hiked the Rainbow Reach trail (park of the Kepler Track).
  • 1 night in Milford Sound on an overnight cruise. One of the best nights of the entire trip! Can’t recommend it enough.
  • 3 nights in Queenstown at the Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel. Love love loved it! Did the 5+ hour hike up Ben Lomond from the top of the gondola (tough but worth it!). Food highlights were Fergburger, Fishbones, and brunch at Vudu Cafe.
Taking a break from kayaking in Abel Tasman

Taking a break from kayaking in Abel Tasman

Hiking in Fiordland National  Park

Hiking in Fiordland National Park

How long was your trip?

2 weeks.

Milford Sound at dawn

Milford Sound at dawn

Natural rock wonder called Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks. Blowholes have formed inside the flattened rock formation.

Natural rock wonder called Punakaiki or Pancake Rocks. Blowholes have formed inside the flattened rock formation.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination?

So as background, I’m from the SF Bay Area and we live here now, but my husband Niall is Irish. We met in Ireland and I lived there for 3 years. When we got engaged in San Francisco, we both knew right away we wanted to have the wedding in Ireland, both to accommodate elderly family on Niall’s side and because, well, it’s just an amazing place that is dear to our hearts. Given the wedding was a destination from our home in California, we were a bit maxed out on wedding planning to even think about a honeymoon. We ended up spending one week in the West of Ireland (Galway) after our wedding, but we considered that a somewhat faux or  ‘group’ honeymoon because it included friends and family.

So… it was always in the back of our minds that we needed to take a proper honeymoon just the two of us. We considered all the regions & places in the world that neither of us had been to, and New Zealand kept rising to the top of our list. Given we are both light-skinned and get sunrash after 10 minutes of being at the beach, New Zealand’s fall climate was a big pro too. And last but not least, we love hiking, walking, animals, and wine, so New Zealand offered all those things in spades. Basically, it ticked all the boxes so we bit the bullet and booked the trip!

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay Winery in Malborough

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay Winery in Malborough

Insanely beautiful scenery along the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown

Insanely beautiful scenery along the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown

The best part about our honeymoon was…

We both loved the day trip we did kayaking + hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. It was out of our comfort zone because neither of us had ever done sea kayaking before, but wow it was just spectacular. First of all we got super lucky with the weather that day because the days leading up to it were a bit ‘changeable’ with periods of torrential rain and wind and then sunny moments. But on the kayak trip day there wasn’t any rain at all. And it was truly magical to be in a remote corner of the world, and even remote by New Zealand standards, out in a kayak just chilling with nearby sea lions swimming around.

Another reason we loved Abel Tasman area was where we stayed… 2 nights at a lovely AirBnb called Matahua cottages. We stayed in a private cottage on an organic farm overlooking a quiet inlet bay. It was only 5 mins drive to a little village area called Mapua with delicious seafood restaurants.

View from the cottage

View from the cottage

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I would try to go for an extra week if possible. Two weeks was a good chunk of time, but we really were pushing ourselves to see and do a lot. In the 2 weeks there we stayed in 9 different places, which is kind of crazy in retrospect. I love that we saw so much and really journeyed our way from Auckland to Milford Sound with stops along the way… but it also became exhausting at one point after we had 4 nights in 4 different places. By the time we got to Queenstown where we stayed our last 3 nights we were so glad to just stay in one town for a few days.

Showing their Bay Area pride at the Ben Lomond summit above Queenstown

Showing their Bay Area pride at the Ben Lomond summit above Queenstown

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December Dream Vacations

The holiday season always makes me appreciate all of the wonderful people I have in my life, and I’m very fortunate that so many of them live near me in the San Francisco Bay Area.  However, some of the most important important people, for some reason, prefer living in a not-so-moderate climate.  That’s right, we’re off to Minnesota next week to freeze our butts off spend Christmas with my in-laws!

Don’t get me wrong, my husband’s family is totally great.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am that they’ve always been incredibly welcoming ever since I first met them.  I’m especially looking forward to a Cinderella-themed slumber party with my 2 1/2 year old niece, playing with my sister-in-laws’ awesome pups, catching up with my husband’s adorable grandparents, and spending time with everyone else… but, man will it be cold!

Although I’m going to freeze in Minnesota this year, here’s a list of warmer places that I’d like to visit during future Decembers:

Clockwise from top left: Zanzibar, Milford Sound, Turks and Caicos, Langkawi

Clockwise from top left: Zanzibar, Milford Sound, Turks and Caicos, Langkawi

1) Southern Africa + Mauritius: it would be an absolute dream vacation to go on safari in South Africa or Tanzania, visit Mozambique and Zanzibar, then relax on Mauritius.

2) Australia + New Zealand: although I’ve already spent lots of time in Oz and NZ, I cannot wait to go back with my husband to sail the Whitsundays again, visit Milford Sound, and hoard Tim Tams.  I’m pretty sure that he’ll like it there as much as I do :)

3) Turks and Caicos: my husband hasn’t been to the Caribbean before, and since we’ve heard such fabulous things about Turks and Caicos especially, I think we’d have to go their first.

4) Malaysia: I’d love to relax on Langkawi and explore the other gorgeous islands in Malaysia.  Friends have told us that Turtle Island is a must-see, too.

Wherever you spend your holidays this year, I hope you and your loved ones are warm and happy!

Delaying Your Honeymoon? Travel in January!

A lot of people choose not to go on their honeymoons directly after their weddings for a variety of reasons. As I wrote in a previous blog post about timing your honeymoon, I think it’s really important for a couple to consider where they want to go, what their work/school situation is like, how they want others to treat their honeymoon, and their finances.

Ko Olina, Oahu

Sunset at Ko Olina, Oahu

So if you do want to delay your honeymoon, when is the best month to travel?  That, of course, depends on where you’d like to go.  There are certain places that have great weather all year (e.g. Hawaii), but obviously the major European destinations like Italy and Greece are going to be quite cold.  Beach Tomato’s “Follow The Sun” map is an awesome tool for finding sunny destinations all year round.

Financially speaking though, January is a great month for traveling.  Prices are usually at all-time highs around the December holidays, but they drop dramatically after January 1st once kids go back to school.  And for spontaneous couples that don’t need a lot of time to plan ahead, you can get really great travel deals if you actually book your January trip at the last minute.

What are my favorite January destinations?  If you’re looking for warm weather, it’s a great month to visit the Southern Hemisphere, and I especially recommend going to Australia, New Zealand, or Argentina.  I’d also looove to visit South Africa in January one day, too.

But if getting a tan isn’t high on your honeymoon priority list, January is also the perfect time to visit world-class ski resorts throughout the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland.

Honeymoon Destination Recommendations For… Adrenaline Junkies!

It’s pretty obvious that just because a honeymoon destination is really popular, it doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone.  One of the reasons why I started this blog in the first place is because the internet is full of websites that can tell you where to stay and what to do once you choose your honeymoon destination, but there aren’t enough sites that will help you decide where to go based on your personalities, time allowance, and budget.

Hopefully this ongoing “Where To Go?” series of blog posts will help you and your fiancé make your own destination decision with plenty of confidence and excitement.  So without further ado, where do I suggest that adrenaline junkies go on their honeymoons?  See my top 3 recommendations (on 3 different continents) below for extremely extreme couples:

1) Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is the city to visit if you like all things extreme.  Not only is the city itself absolutely beautiful, full of good restaurants, nice hotels, and some of the friendliest people in the world, the adrenaline-pumping activities that the city has to offer are endless.  You can spend your days skydiving, bungy jumping (do the Nevis – it’s the highest in NZ!), mountain biking, white water rafting, and parasailing, or you can take it easy with scenic hikes, cruising on Lake Wakatipu, and wine tasting.  During the winter, you can also ski and snowboard on the Remarkables mountain range.

I also highly recommend going on a Shotover Jet boat ride and then getting some cocktails at the Minus 5° Icebar.  Is the icebar overpriced and crowded?  Sure is.  Do you get to wear borrowed jackets and gloves?  Yep. Do the photos make it all worth it?  Absolutely.

Other fun things to consider doing are the street luge course and the ledge swing, but just a heads up about that ledge swing harness: it hurrrrts.

2) Interlaken, Switzerland

Hey Derek!

If Queenstown is the #1 adventure destination in the world, then I’d say that Interlaken comes in a close second.  Just replace the Remarkables with the Swiss Alps, and Lake Wakatipu with Lakes Brienzsee and Thun, and you’ll find that the two cities are very similar.

Again, the backdrop of the city alone would be enough to make Interlaken a popular tourist destination.  However, it also offers world-class skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and tons of fun summer activities like skydiving, hang gliding, bungy jumping, white water rafting, and rock climbing.

Since I had already done most of those extreme activities in Queenstown before I visited Interlaken, I decided I should do something a bit more unique when I was in Switzerland.  I chose to go canyoning.

So, what is canyoning anyway?  Well, first you start out wearing a sweet wetsuit, jacket, lifevest, and helmet.  Then you basically just end up following your guide down a series of waterfalls with a combination of hiking, jumping, swimming, and rappelling skills.  It’s all a bit blurry to me now, but I remember that everyone had a great time.

Although I was just a backpacker when I visited Interlaken, my husband was lucky enough that his firm flew him out there a few years ago for a weekend hike.  Yes, we live in San Francisco, and his law firm flew everyone out to Switzerland to go for a weekend hike.  I was just a little jealous, to say the least.  Anyway, they stayed at a very beautiful hotel called The Victoria-Jungfrau, and it sounds like it would be perfect for honeymooners.  He said that the cleaning staff were like ninjas because he’d leave the room for a few minutes, and by the time he came back it would be spotless.

One drawback to both of our Switzerland experiences, neither my husband nor I remember anything remarkably positive about the food.  However, he did mention that there was a Hooters next to his hotel.  Just where you always imagined eating during your honeymoon, right?  The legend told is that the people who purchased the land adjacent to the hotel wanted to build a gift shop, but the hotel shut them down because there was already a shop in the resort.  To get their revenge, the neighbors built the most spiteful (yet profitable) thing they could think of… a Hooters restaurant.

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